Sometimes you come across a lofty railway viaduct marooned in the middle of a remote country landscape. Or a crumbling platform from some once-bustling junction buried under the buddleia. If you are lucky you might be able to follow some rusting tracks or explore an old tunnel leading to...well, who knows where?
Listen hard. Is that the wind in the undergrowth? Or the spectre of a train from a golden era of the past panting up the embankment?
These are the ghosts of The Trains Now Departed. They are the railway lines, and services that ran on them that have disappeared and gone forever. Our lost legacy includes lines prematurely axed, often with gripping and colourful tales of their own, as well as marvels of locomotive engineering sent to the scrapyard and grand termini felled by the wrecker's ball.
Then there are the lost delights of train travel, such as haute cuisine in the dining car, the grand expresses with their evocative names, and continental boat trains to romantic, far-off places.
The Trains Now Departed tells the stories of some of the most fascinating lost trains of Britain, vividly evoking the glories of a bygone age. In his personal odyssey around Britain, Michael Williams tells the tales of the pioneers who built the tracks and the yarns of the men and women who operated them and the colourful trains that ran on them. It is a journey into the soul of our railways, summoning up a magic which, although mired in time, is fortunately not lost for ever.
I enjoyed this book. Having been an excited passenger on steam hauled trains in my childhood and early adolescence I have an unnatural appetite for stories and details of steam engines and railways. The popularity of Rev Awdry's Thomas the tank engine tales and preserved steam lines shows that I am not alone in this. However those who are less enthusiastic might find the book tedious or even dull. The author does like his wry little jokey observations too, and while I found them tolerable, others might be irritated.
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If you could sum up The Trains Now Departed in three words, what would they be?
Excellent Informative Outstanding
What was one of the most memorable moments of The Trains Now Departed?
The incredible history of "the night sleeper" a pre-channel tunnel intercontinental service from London to Paris. The train literally boarded a ferry whilst the passengers slept.
What does Michael Tudor Barnes bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
His voice is evocative of a vanished past, his diction and timbre matched that of the text. A narration on trains that closely rivals the late Sir John Betjeman.
If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?
What we have lost
Any additional comments?
This book enthralled me completely. I'm not really a railway enthusiast but am very interested in social history. What made this book particularly interesting were the balanced arguments. Not a misty eyed, age of steam nostalgic style. Michael Williams takes an historians realistic approach to branch line closures, pointing out the lines where the railway staff were surprised to see a single passenger in a week! I had always considered Dr Richard Beeching to be the devil incarnate for the butchery of our branch lines, but having listened to this book must concede that in many areas he was indeed correct. That is not to say that all of his decisions were just, but many clearly were.
I have given the reader Michael Tudor Barnes just 4 stars for this reading. He lost a star for his pronunciation of that wonderful hill on Bodmin moor. He pronounced the hill as "Rough Tor" when it should of course be pronounced "rowta" as in "ow" that was painful!
Ten minutes of this book is the perfect way to relax and transform your mood for the better. The author surveys the history, scenery and vestiges of various branch lines around Britain, merting on the way enthusiasts and old railway workers who mourn the passing of these lines. No need to go on holiday. Just sit back and let Mr. Tudor Barnes do the travelling for you round the byways of a lost way of life.